Le puntarelle were one of the many wonderful discoveries we had while living in Rome. They were made into simple spring salads with a salted anchovy and extra virgin olive oil, curling around each other in delicious crunchiness. Apparently every region has their own version of puntarelle, at least I have discovered a different type here in Puglia.
I found some at one of the little shops that I have started to frequent with great regularity, “il gusto magico” where my new friend Orsola has a great little alimentari specializing in organic fruits and vegetables, delicious unique cheeses and salumi. We had an instant connection and I’ve been paying her a visit weekly for organic local strawberries, great bread from Matera and other interesting products that she may have that day. The best part is that she always gives me a little taste of some new cheese she’s found, a slice of cured meat that I would otherwise never have the opportunity to try, perfect for that mid-morning pang of hunger. She is certainly passionate about food, which I love, some could call her a foodie, but I kind of hate that term, so I won’t use it.
I had tried the crunchy knotted part of le puntarelle pugliesi before, but wasn’t sure what I should do with the leaves. My shyness of asking has been thrown to the wayside and I asked Orsola, she immediately jumped at the opportunity to show me how to clean them. Removing the tender leaves she split them with a knife, she said that the leaves could be sautéed, the same way I had done with the catalogna and the crunchy knots could be eaten raw, dipped in vinegar with a little salt, or thrown into a salad. Delicious. I had to stop her from cleaning the whole head since I wanted to photograph the process, but appreciated the gesture.